With his uniform sparkling into the light, he was ready to leave for solar system Vain. The Captain, Steve Goren, an elite of the royal fleet, was about to start an expedition to find life, because of the short distance between the two solar systems – about fifteen and a half light years. Over 350 years have passed since 3199 and the first expedition to the nearby solar system, named after Cassandra who was Queen of the Earth back then. Now it was time for Vain or, as it was best known, the Tenth Sun.
It was a milestone for Steve and all he had to do was go up there, gather information and return. Under no circumstances should he attack anyone or anything. A war was the last thing they needed. He will be absent just for a year and the result will be a big push to his career. Major General – honorary – despite his thirty nine years, and the right to receive a lifetime outer space pension. He may quit after that. He could continue as an instructor. He could simply travel with his beautiful wife. “Why does it have to be you?” she asked him when he announced her the received order. “’Cause somebody has to do it.” was the reply. A typical and classic answer, but he had nothing more to say.
The aircraft, with the callsign Trail 4, was a DELTA 528, a light exploratory with the small battleship’s arsenal. Shaped as an equilateral triangle and just a dozen feet long, had a range of 150 light years and was capable of traveling the distance a light year in a week, which means less than four months to arrive at Tenth Sun. It was, also, equipped with a sleep and fitness aid systems, so the operator does not lose his ability to move.
The launch is scheduled for 21:00. Everything is ready and waiting for the countdown. The launch is completed successfully. Soon the captain will be outside the atmosphere. Now he had to depart considerably from the Earth’s solar system – a journey of about two days – and put the coordinates for the Vain system.
Trail 4 was travelling with the ultra speed for two hours when Steve noticed a comet having opposite direction from him. He immediately takes measurements and realizes that the orbit of the comet intersects the one of Earth. According to the size, speed and distance between two celestial bodies the collision is expected to take place after fifty years. He couldn’t send a reference signal, as long as he was travelling with ultra speed, and when he would be near the Tenth Sun’s borders, it would take 15.5 years for the sign to reach Earth – he would have turned much more quickly – so Steve decided just to take a note of the aircraft’s calendar log.
After 108 days, two thousand miles outside of the Vain system, he disabled the ultra speed and slowly Trail 4 stopped. Captain opened the scanners and found three planets around the Tenth Sun. The first, the closest, had four natural satellites, the second had two and the third none. Steve intimidated looked back to the report that he had taken with him from Earth. The third planet was designated by a satellite. He noted the difference and began immediately, collecting rocks and information. Besides, he had only four months to return to Earth.
The thirty-second day captain Goren noticed something strange: one of the middle planet’s “moons” had disappeared. Just gone. Trail 4 has made four times the Vain’s borders, however, without a trace. Then he turned his research into something different. Goren resented from the presence of a black hole just outside the Vain. He wasted his time into a solar system that in a few years would not exist. He, then, started to prepare for his return to Earth.
The hairs at his neck shuddered up when he understood the terrible truth behind the presence of the black hole. Time is compressed near a large gravitational field. How many years have passed since he landed? How many earth years have passed since he landed? Captain took the measurement of gravity and, with shaky hands, made calculations. 180 years. The tears began to flow quickly. He opened his mouth in a scream of pain, anger and smash: